Reviews > Culture

The Music

Culture | 2001's Top 5 bestselling CDs, according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade at 29," Jan. 19, 2002
1
Black and Blue
Backstreet Boys 8 million copies sold
STYLE
Pop-lite, juvenile division; pleasant, high-tech, corporate bubble gum.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Shining Star" ("Baby, you're as close as close can get / And baby you know I'd let / Every single part of me be yours / It doesn't matter if the phone might ring / 'Cause I won't hear a thing when I'm in your arms / 'Cause you know what to do to turn me on")

WORLDVIEW
Puppy love can move mountains.

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OVERALL QUALITY
As music that's merely catchy, slick, and over-produced, not bad.

2
One
Beatles 7 million copies sold
STYLE
The most popular, catchy, guileless, and influential rock-and-roll of all time.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Optimistic, its every cry for help drowned out with enough frivolity (if not joy), wit (if not wisdom), and naïveté (if not innocence) to float a yellow submarine.

OVERALL QUALITY
High indeed; in collecting only the most popular of the Beatles' many hits, this collection confers second-class status on the darker tendencies of their more experimental music and allows their talent and creativity to shine forth unsullied.

3
Human Clay
Creed 10 million copies sold
STYLE
The thunderous guitars and lumbering tempos of heavy metal mixed with the hummable choruses and confessional tone of alternative rock.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
"I ... see a vision of a cross," sings Scott Stapp. "Only he holds the key ... to free me from my burden / and grant me life eternally"; elsewhere Mr. Stapp invites "a warrior" whose "yoke is easy" and whose "burden is light" to "come inside / and never go away."

OVERALL QUALITY
For hummable, confessional heavy-metal, not bad.

4
Survivor
Destiny's Child 3 million copies sold
STYLE
Slick, dance-oriented pop and R&B.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Bootylicious," "Apple Pie à la Mode" (lascivious)

WORLDVIEW
Confused. In "Nasty Girl" the perpetually underdressed trio removes a splinter from its sister's eye while ignoring the plank in its own ("Nasty, put some clothes on!"); elsewhere there's a Gospel medley, a recitation of 1 Corinthians 13, and a liner note from lead singer Beyoncé Knowles thanking God "for writing my songs." ("Bootylicious" too?)

OVERALL QUALITY
Long on gimmicks, short on quality.

5
A Day Without Rain
Enya 5 million copies sold
STYLE
Billowy "New Age" pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
"Each heart is a pilgrim, / each one wants to know / the reason why the winds die / and where the stories go. / Pilgrim, in your journey / you may travel far, / for, pilgrim, it's a long way / to find out who you are" (from "Pilgrim").

OVERALL QUALITY
Despite its exotic contours and soothing glow, Enya's music exists mainly to sell a pseudo-romanticism that in its dreamy vapidity has few contemporary equals.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Like its predecessors My Own Prison (1997) and Human Clay (1999), Creed's Weathered (Wind-Up) is proving quite popular. Not only has it remained atop the Billboard chart since debuting there last Thanksgiving, but it has done so despite competition from the likes of such perennial million-sellers as Britney Spears and Garth Brooks. To the extent that Weathered doesn't fix what ain't broke, its appeal makes sense. Both sound (grunge) and vision (earnest frankness) are of a piece with those of Prison's and Clay's, while such experimentation as there is, is limited to the guitars' sometimes sounding more heavily metallic than usual. As for Scott Stapp's overwrought singing, it still pays dubious homage to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Curiously, references to what sounds like a genuine Christian faith persist, even as Mr. Stapp's official position remains that Creed's music is not defined by any one religion. "Hey, God, I know I'm just a dot in this world," he sings in "Don't Stop Dancing." "Have you forgot [sic] about me?" As Mr. Stapp may or may not realize, the answers to such questions tend to be implicit in the asking.

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